Muktuk Marston

Muktuk Marston

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Anchorage, Alaska, US
United States Army
BG, Army Air Corps and Alaska National Guard
Anchorage, US, 07/31/1980

Marvin R. Marston was born in a log house on a homestead in Tyler, Washington on January 5, 1889.  Marston moved to Seattle, Washington by covered wagon with his family at the age of five.  He punched bulls in the woods of Oregon and drove horses in Washington.  At 15, he went to Alaska on the S.S. Senator.  He arrived in Nome, Alaska in 1906, and worked for a short time as a longshoreman.  He returned to high school in Seattle and served as member of the Washington National Guard.

In 1909, Marston went to Illinois and graduated from Greenville College in 1913.  He enlisted in the Illinois National Guard and in September 1911, was commissioned as a first lieutenant.  Through the 1920’s Marston engaged himself in a variety of businesses, finally moving into land and resource development.  His travels took him from coast to coast. In the late part of the decade, he began a 13 year gold and copper mining adventure in Canada.

When World War II broke out, Marston was given a direct commission as a major in the Army Air Corps, with assignment to Alaska.  Major Marston arrived at Fort Richardson in the spring of 1941.  In 1942, Marston visited army posts along the Aleutian Chain and many Alaska Native villages.  It was during this trip that Marston received his inspiration for the Alaska Territorial Guard (ATG).  While recruiting members for the ATG, Marston received his nickname, “Muktuk” for his success in a muktuk eating contest.

Accompanying Joe E. Brown, who was touring our new outposts to keep our lonely Gl’s from homesickness with his friendly entertainment, Marston found himself on St. Lawrence Island. All white men, except for the Bureau of Indian Affairs school teacher, Frank Daugherty, had departed. The seven hundred Eskimos living in the Island’s two villages of Gambell and Savoonga sensed that strange and threatening events were impending. A Japanese vessel had recently visited the Islands and its crew had been ashore for days for unrevealed purposes. Marston, who had taken an immediate liking to the friendly and cheerful Eskimos, conceived the idea of organizing them in defense units and to form similar organizations throughout western Alaska. But when he returned to his base, he found little receptiveness to his ideas.

As Governor of Alaska, I took office on December 5, 1939. There had never been a National Guard in Alaska, and I immediately took the necessary steps to organize it. I asked for five companies respectively in Ketchikan, Juneau, Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Nome. After several joint sorties, Major Marston continued the organization alone. In a few months we had organized 111 units.

The rest of the story is Marston’s. His continuing difficulty with the military he has clearly set forth. When they put obstacles in his way in supplying the rifles and ammunition to remote outposts, he drove them there himself by dog team under conditions that few, if any, of the regulars could have faced.

Those were the Alaskans who served and continued to serve Uncle Sam, loyally, cheerfully, patriotically, efficiently, modestly. Had the parachutists come, or would they tomorrow, the deadly accuracy of these Eskimo marksmen would bring them down.

They continue to serve — not merely in the Alaska National Guard. They serve in the Alaska legislature; and it is one of my proudest accomplishments that I persuaded the first Eskimo to run (Percy lpalook) and to start the inclusion in our Territorial and, later, State legislatures of Eskimos to represent areas which are almost wholly inhabited by Eskimos.

So “Muktuk,” as he is now widely known, rendered not only a substantial military service by his high purpose and devotion but a no less notable civic service. He helped integrate an ethnic minority, a great people with qualities that are admirable and precious, into our society — to which they contribute at the very least as much as they receive.

Muktuk’s portrait is also on Poster 8

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